This is a series of posts following my two years on the road…although most of that time was not spent on the road at all.
I lived in Florida for about four months. I went for physical fitness training that never happened and just stayed for the adventure. Although I drove down with the RV, I ended up renting two different homes instead.
Orlando, like most of my trips, was a mixed bag. On one hand, I made some new friends, joined a meditation family, and grew as a person. On the other hand, I got robbed and had a number of lonely, frustrated nights.
I meet a lot of people in Orlando in the strangest of places. Once, I got invited to a pool BBQ party while I was trying to buy a Craigslist blender. My closest friends were the most unexpected mix including a tattoo artist, unemployed guitar player, and self-proclaimed nightlife mayor. For an intellectual, Asian nerd with a Masters in Philosophy, this was a new experience. Despite our differing views, I really did like them all and received some of the greatest kindness and generosity of my entire life.
Also, I was regularly attending sittings with the local Vipassana and Kwam Um Zen schools. I chanted, I meditated, I bowed, and ate with them. I told them I would be going soon and was very thankful to feel like I was part of a family in the short four months I was there. My meditation is a defining and important part of my life, and it feels so nice to meet another that shares that quality.
Of course, it wasn’t always great. I had some horrible living situations. My original plans for fitness training were immediately cancelled. I got robbed which shattered my sense of safety. There were some really lonely days wandering the town by myself. Nothing makes you feel lonely like eating at a restaurant by yourself. There were a lot of nights talking to people and just going nowhere. It took a month before I ever talked to anyone at the meditation places.
Nevertheless, I grew and learned a lot. I went there without knowing a soul. I forced myself out of my comfort zone such as teaching myself how to ride a bike, doing couchsurfing for the first time, and just saying yes to life. After Florida, I believed I could survive anywhere. Although I was sad to leave, the robbery had shaken me up too much, and I didn’t feel like finding another random home to stay. I wanted to go home and focus on work again.
On the way back home, I made a few stops. I spent a day in the Gainesville Zen Center. I would meditate with the Tallahassee Zen group and sleep in my RV by the train tracks. The manager the next morning kindly inquired about my status before I promptly left. I spent a week in Birmingham spending Thanksgiving with an old friend in a sports bar. Finally, I stayed with another family in Atlanta before doing the long journey back home for Christmas.
Despite all the ups and downs, I felt a great deal of peace and equanimity after Orlando. I kept in mind a Zen teacher’s words, “I don’t know, and that’s okay.” Likewise, I had a new perspective that it is ignorant and arrogant to speak negatively about Life as if I were the Master and Life, the Servant. I am just the wave, Life is the Ocean. No matter what happened, there I was. Still alive. Still capable of laughing and connecting.
However, I would decide afterwards that I was done with random Craigslist roommates. I would only stay with friends or by myself from then on. In the next year 2012, I spent a few months in Delaware puzzling over my future fate. Eventually in the Spring, I visited Korea for my brother’s wedding, moved to Boston for a while, and then got back in the RV in earnest to travel west for the Pacific.